On May 27, 1919 twenty-four business leaders from throughout Illinois met for the first time to organize the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Those charter members formed one of the first statewide business organizations in the nation. Their 1919 goals remain viable almost a century later: to deal with a “danger of too much government in business” and to “promote and protect the business climate of Illinois.”
Officially chartered by the Illinois Secretary of State on August 2, 1919 the Chamber approaches its centennial with a rich history of bringing business leaders together to represent the best interests of Illinois employers and remains the only business association in Illinois that represents all types and sizes of businesses.
For nearly 90 years, the Illinois Chamber’s reputation as the leading voice for business and the strongest network of business leaders in the state has steadily increased. Our engaged members represent the diversity of Illinois in business and industry sectors, geography and company size. The Chamber’s legislative scorecards, policy position statements and grassroots efforts are integral elements of key business legislation consideration in Illinois. Statewide involvement with local chambers and coalitions with other pro-business associations only amplifies that voice.
Throughout its history, the Illinois Chamber has undertaken new initiatives that have enhanced both its effectiveness as a general business association representing the interests of Illinois business and influence within the political and policy arenas. In the early 21st century, the Chamber’s milestone initiatives included the endorsement of U. S. senatorial candidates in 2003, the endorsement of judicial candidates in 2005, aggressive campaign influencing activities in Illinois legislative races in 2005, increasing the Chamber PAC war chest and forming new business coalitions to take on the governor and legislature on critical business matters including workers’ compensation, rising health care costs, labor relations legislation and the use of business taxes and fees.
The Illinois Chamber took a significant action in 2003 to represent the interests of business in meeting the challenges presented by the then newly-elected governor: we filed a lawsuit against the state contending its use of fees for general revenue fund obligations was a violation of the Illinois Constitution. The Illinois Chamber was the only business association to take such an action that held up to initial court scrutiny.
These initiatives have increased the visibility of the Illinois Chamber as a strong business advocate and, in turn, have led to our growth. This growth during the early 21st Century is built upon the Chamber’s increasingly engaged members and board members who are working in tandem with the Chamber’s highly professional staff. The Chamber staff has a range of competencies in areas including lobbying and government relations, tax and employment law, healthcare and workers’ compensation, legal and judicial reform, and environmental regulation.
The members and staff interests are well matched through common business concerns. Those concerns for members are met in a variety of ways including expert lobbying and policy analysis, campaign analysis and support, targeted business services such as workshops, seminars and policy-based conferences and HR compliance manuals, and a variety of other communication resources for members.
The Illinois Chamber has hosted many political leaders at the local, state and federal levels, including a special event for our members in January of 2008 when the Chamber hosted President George W. Bush and former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The Illinois Chamber’s plans and initiatives for the future are focused on maintaining the organization’s high value to the state and to its members. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce will continue to strive to make Illinois the best possible place to live, work and do business.